The UK hospitality industry has reacted with frustration to the news that from tomorrow, all restaurants, bars and pubs will have to close at 10pm, with one bar owner calling it “a death sentence”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new ruling, which aims to lessen the spread of Covid-19, in a televised address to the UK, which aired on the BBC at 8pm last night.
As part of the new ruling, takeaway services will also have to cease at 10pm and diners will have to wear masks at all times except when seated at their table. Kitchens are, however, allowed to remain open beyond 10pm to fulfil deliveries.
One of the biggest concerns from restaurant operators is that the 10pm kick out time means they will lose an entire second sitting of customers every night.
Emma Underwood, general manager at Darby’s in Nine Elms, told Eater London: “Closing at 10pm means that we lose a whole sitting, which is a massive loss of covers. It means we would struggle to accommodate bookings from 8:30pm onwards, which is our peak time.”
“The earlier closing means an earlier finish, which for the hourly staff is a huge loss. It can mean the difference of up to £500 a month, which is someone’s rent,” Adejoké Bakare, founder of Chushuru in Brixton Market, told Eater.
Alex Kratena, owner of craft cocktail bar Tayer + Elementary in east London, told Time Out the new ruling was “a death sentence” to the night-time economy.
“Bars like ours take 70% of their revenue after 10pm. We are already doing 50% less business than last year. We have now been served a death sentence,” he said.
Tayer + Elementary’s co-owner, Monica Berg, added: “If this ban is not followed by some sort of protective measures, this week will be remembered as the moment hospitality died.”
Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality, described the 10pm curfew as “another crushing blow” for the industry.
“A hard close time is bad for business and bad for controlling the virus – we need to allow time for people to disperse over a longer period. It is hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease when Government data shows that just 5% of infections out of the home are related to hospitality.
“Where such restrictions have been put in place locally they have not cut infection rates, merely damaged business and cost jobs. Most critically, the Government needs to recognise this will damage confidence even further and it is now inevitable that the sector will struggle long into 2021,” she said, adding that a new support package for the hospitality industry was “now essential”.
With the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme bringing much-needed revenue to the sector throughout August, and September’s warm weather allowing for an extended period of outdoor dining, there were glimmers of hope that the industry was beginning to pick up again.
With cooler weather forcing diners inside, and the 10pm curfew slashing the covers venues can accommodate, the industry faces multiple challenges this winter.
The Government has yet to announce whether or not the furlough scheme, which would help the hospitality industry through this difficult trading period, will be extended. According to UK Hospitality, 900,000 jobs within the industry will be put at risk if the furlough scheme isn’t extended.